Fight Inside Park Center Senior High School Prompts Brooklyn Park Police To Pull School Resource Officers
Brooklyn Park police have announced that the department would remove its eight school resource officers from schools immediately, a decision spurred by continuing confusion over new state guidelines over how officers can restrain students and hastened by a fight inside Park Center Senior High School that resulted in the injury of a staff member.
“Our SROs are not comfortable going back to schools,” said Brooklyn Park police spokesperson Elliott Faust on Friday. “We’re not comfortable with all these different conflicting viewpoints of what the law means, from a practical standpoint, when a police officer is put in a position–what can you do?”
Earlier this year, the Minnesota State Legislature passed a new law that placed limits on school resource officers by prohibiting certain physical restraints they can use on students unless someone’s life was at risk. That aspect created uncertainties and liability questions for school resource officers in various situations. As a result, many departments made decisions over the summer to pull officers out of schools, leaving school districts to come up with different safety plans.
Brooklyn Park Police Chief Mark Bruley told CCX News in August his officers would return to the city’s schools when the new semester started on Sept. 5, because Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison had issued an opinion outlining when certain restraints may be allowable in certain situations.
But Faust said he’d heard from many of the department’s SROs since school began that they continue to find themselves in situations where they’re unsure of how to respond.
“With conflicting viewpoints on that, it leaves us in this strange area of: do we still feel comfortable with that? With our initial understanding of the attorney general’s interpretation?” said Faust.
Now, schools are in a situation that they’ll have to call 911 when an emergency unfolds, as was the case Thursday, said Faust. Brooklyn Park police say two students got into a fight inside Park Center Senior High School and that a school resource officer from adjoining Brooklyn Middle School responded. Police also say patrol officers had to respond after a call for more help.
A staff member was assaulted during the altercation, police said. The investigation continues.
“In the old law, it’s unlikely the patrol officers would have had to respond because the SRO would have probably taken the person into custody and handcuffed them and got the situation under control,” said Faust.
With no school resource officers in the schools, leaders in the Osseo and Anoka-Hennepin school districts expressed confidence that they’re school communities would remain safe with Brooklyn Park police officers still able to respond reasonably quickly.
In a statement to CCX News, Osseo Area Schools spokeswoman Kay Villela wrote: “Our schools will remain in close communication with Brooklyn Park Police and continue to work together to ensure the safest school environments possible. We continue to believe that school safety and security are community endeavors and that it takes all of us working together to do this.”
In his letter to parents on Thursday, Champlin Park High School Principal Mike George wrote: “The district remains in close communication with police and we continue to work together to ensure the safest school environments possible.”
If the officers–whether they were at one time assigned as school resource officers–are designated as patrol officers, the new law doesn’t apply, and they’re able to utilize more techniques to gain control over situations that arise, police said.
“Now, as a patrol officer, it’s clear they know how to respond,” said Faust. “We’re going to do our best to make sure patrol officers as close to the schools at all times, but they’re not going to be there instantaneously. I think it would be unfair to say that they aren’t a little less safe.”